Down The Clown Breakdown

One of the games I’ve been trying to get better at for years is the classic carnival game Down the Clown. While I can hit the jackpot, I haven’t yet been able to do so consistently.  Recently, I decided to take a deep dive into the game to see if I can improve my record.  What I discovered is that the game is a classic for a reason – it requires speed and accuracy to knock down those clowns! 

Game overview

I’ve never been afraid of much, even as a kid.  But the one thing that’s always creeped me out is clowns.  I used to dream that they would pop up from under my bed.  So needless to say, I get maximum satisfaction when I pop one in the face and it keels over. 

As in other classic carnival games, the targets that are hardest to hit in Down the Clown are worth the most points.  The top row has three clowns worth 30 points each, the middle row has four clowns worth 20 points each, and the bottom row has five clowns worth a measly 10 points each. Watch out for the red light – clowns will randomly be cast in red (to maximize the creep factor) and are worth double the points if you hit them while they are lit up.

Just like the clowns under my bed would never stay down, the clowns in this game refuse to die.  If you knock down a full row, then any previously emptied rows will stand back up to be pummeled again.  For example, if you clear Row 1, and then you clear Row 2, the clowns in Row 1 will pop back up.  That’s because they are undead demons here for your soul.  Keep throwing!

In order to take on the clowns, you should be provided with 8 to 12 solid rubber balls that are relatively lightweight and a tad smaller than a tennis ball.  If you notice that there are only 6 or fewer then some have been stolen and you should alert the authorities!   

Once your comfortable with the clowns and the balls, it’s time to get throwing.  The game usually starts at a 500 point requirement to hit the jackpot. This jackpot will increase or decrease depending on wins or losses and traditionally jumps to the last jackpot winner’s score.  For example, if the jackpot is 500 and you beat it with a total score of 525, the jackpot will go up to 525.  This means you will want to stop the second you get the minimum number of points required to hit the jackpot if you want a better chance at doing it again.  

So now that we have the basics, we can use a little math and see that if we polish off the top and middle row three times, we end up with 510 points and a jackpot win. That would be a walk in the park, except that the game gives you only 20 to 25 seconds to accomplish this task.


To crush those clowns in the limited amount of time allotted, it’s critical that you apply some strategy.  Many players overlook the red clowns, but remember, they are worth double points.  That means that if you hit a red clown in the middle or top row, you reduce the required throws needed for the jackpot by one.  So smash those suckers first.


In order to make sure you can implement your strategy and knock down the right clowns, it’s critical that your throws are accurate and rapid fire.  The clowns take very little effort to knock down and hard throws take more time.  A shortstop wouldn’t crank their arm back if throwing it 5 feet to second base.  So keep it gentle.

To set yourself up for success, focus on your stance first.  While there is a sensor to prevent you from climbing into the machine, you can lean closer for easier targeting without running afoul of the Carnival Police.

Once you’ve got your stance down, make sure you are ready to fire without missing a beat.  That means using one hand to throw and another to reload constantly.  You’ll use this strategy in similar games, so now is a good time to practice.

Watching this game be won by experience players is a treat and can inspire awe by those who can’t do it. Remember that natural talent will help you succeed with throwing style games like this, but the true determining factor is practice. Give it a try over the next few weeks and see if you improve. Then leave a comment to let us know if you’ve made some progress or have other helpful tips that you may have!

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